USA Swimming has released it’s final roster for Dubai, which includes Nick Thoman replacing Aaron Peirsol on the roster. Both swimmers are backstrokers and members of the National Team program.
It’s not clear when Peirsol backed out of the meet, but recent comments by him indicate that this is not new news to him (see tweet below from a week ago). The move is a logical one. What makes Aaron Peirsol the best long course backstroker in the world is his ability to blow away his competition above the water. In a short course race, where the world’s best typically swim 60% of the race under water, his weakness under the water hurts him. This is why he has only broken two short course World Records in his career (both in the 200) versus almost a dozen in a 50 meter pool.
Thoman, on the other hand, is the current 100 backstroke short course World Record holder. He set the mark in the 2009 edition of the Duel in the Pool between the United States and a European all-star squad comprised of German, British, and Italian swimmers. The meet, held in December 18th of last year, was one of the last sponsored meets before the rubber (polyurethane) suits were banned.
It’s not clear how this affects the American medley relay, where Peirsol likely would’ve swum. Luckily, the American team is loaded in this event as a whole. The backstroke leg probably goes to Lochte if he wants it, but with the semi-late notice, he might not be prepared to add an extra event to his already packed schedule. The other backstroker on the roster is David Plummer, who after his breakout summer hasn’t had a great opportunity to prove himself in a short course pool internationally. Tyler Clary swims the 200 backstroke, but I would imagine that Thoman would get preference for the relay spot.